High school baseball: Goals shift, still alive for Bumgarner
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 15-minute drive from Sleepy Hollow Country Club to his home in Scott Depot gave Winfield's Josh Bumgarner just enough time to make a big decision.
Big, at least, for a high school senior trying to map plans for the remainder of his final varsity athletic year.
"That's the day I decided to play baseball," said Bumgarner, a pitcher and the starting second baseman for the Generals. "I realized on the drive home from the regionals that it was probably the right thing to do."
The day was Sept. 24 and the Winfield golf team had fallen short of earning a trip to the State Tournament - a goal since Bumgarner and teammate Chris Williams were freshmen.
They were teammates on the baseball team as ninth graders and each decided not to play the sport while pursuing their dreams on the golf course. Williams, who was a reserve who seldom played in 2010, shifted his focus to tennis this year.
Bumgarner's decision to return to baseball was made when what he hoped to accomplish in golf didn't work out.
He and Williams had participated in the State Tournament as individuals, but not all of their aspirations were personal.
"It was tough, because all of us worked hard for it and it comes down to how well you play one day," said Bumgarner of Winfield finishing one spot out of a berth at states. "We played really well all season and we had an off day on the only one that mattered."
He immediately shifted his focus to baseball and started weight training in November. A versatile freshman who played infield, outfield and pitched in 2010, Bumgarner had a spot waiting for him at second base.
Matt Wright graduated in 2012, leaving brother Brandon "Goob" Wright at shortstop and eliminating one of the Kanawha Valley's top middle infield combinations.
With Wright and Bumgarner, the Generals have turned six double plays in five games this season. Bumgarner is batting .357 with one triple and five RBI. As a pitcher, he is 1-1 with one strikeout, no walks and a 3.00 earned run average in 4 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, his golf clubs are getting a break from the links, something he recognized was probably a wise decision.
"I feel a little lull," Bumgarner said. "Once you play something so long, it kind of gets old, no matter what you do."
His development as a baseball player might have slowed during his sophomore and junior seasons, but the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder doesn't look back.
"I missed some of the little things, and I did some things in the offseason on my own," Bumgarner said. "Hitting is the hardest thing to adjust to.
"I don't regret quitting baseball to play golf. I think it was the right decision to try to play. Things just didn't go the way I thought they would, I guess."
When the spring season concludes, he will return to the West Virginia Golf Association events - Open, State Amateur, et al - and look forward to West Virginia University.
There is no golf program at WVU, but Bumgarner said he will consider walking on to the baseball team.
Until then, his high school goals have shifted and remain alive as long as the Winfield baseball team is.
"I wasn't going to play many golf tournaments this spring, and I wanted to do something," he said. "I wanted to try to win a state championship in something and this is my best opportunity.
"I don't regret quitting baseball to play golf. I'm glad everything happened the way it did."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.